Breastfeeding History in Stereo

3b23360rI am so excited this morning because I learned something brand new about American history!

As I have been searching through countless photographs on the Library of Congress Web site I keep coming across unfamiliar late nineteenth, early twentieth century photo cards with two of the exact image right beside each other. I knew absolutely nothing about them until today.

They’re called stereographs and they were the precursor to the modern day View Master. Here’s one called “Baby’s Happy Hour” (1) from 1898.

It was photographed and sold by Griffith & Griffith, an early photography company out of Philadelphia. Families would pop their cards into the stereoscope and get a 3-D version of the image. It was great entertainment then, but Constance B. Schultz, a history professor at the University of South Carolina, teaches that these stereographs painted a very narrow view of women. (Quelle surprise!)

“Stereographs were used as a widespread vehicle to transport cultural and domestic ideas. They reflected and reinforced both positive and negative stereotypes about the roles and purposes of women.”

Schultz adds the stereographs were intended to either depict women as matronly (above) or comical in nature like this one called “A Chip Off the Old Block” (2) which shows a man and baby drinking from the bottle. It was sold by the Standard Scenic Company in 1906.

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1. Copyright: Griffith & Griffith
2. Copyright: Standard Scenic Co.